Tuesday, 11 October 2011
Let me use - sorry, I mean share your grief
So, Virginia, what do you think of these electoral ambushes? There have been a number of them, you'll notice. Yesterday, Martin McGuinness was ambushed by the son of Pte Patrick Kelly, killed in gunfire during the search for kidnapped industrialist Don Tidey in 1983. Yesterday also the Irish Turf Cutters and Contractors' Association ambushed Gay Mitchell in east Galway, protesting against restrictions on 54 peatland areas. A week or so ago, Michael D Higgins was ambushed by an American surgeon in Grafton Street. A sort of benevolent ambush, you could say. The American surgeon, without even asking Mr Higgins to roll up his trouser-leg, was able to assure the candidate that he was in remarkably good health and recovering from his leg thing very nicely.
What's that, Virginia? McGuinness and Mitchell were very unlucky to be ambushed by people with something negative to say and Higgins was very lucky to be ambushed by a man with something positive to say? Well, yes, you're right, except that luck had nothing to do with it. Michael D Higgins no more happened to run into that accommodating surgeon with the X-ray eyes than my Auntie Maggie was a steeplechase jockey. The Higgins handlers made good and sure that their man met the visiting sawbones and good and sure that said sawbones came out with all the right things. That's the way it is in politics, Virginia. Things are stage-managed. Theatrical. Subject to the art of concealing art so it looks like real life.
The same goes for Mitchell and the bog-men: I have no doubt the peat-cutters people are sincerely concerned about the Fine Gael stance on their peat areas but I'm equally sure they planned and executed their encounter to create as much damage as possible to Fine Gael and more specifically Gay Mitchell. They're a sizeable organisation, the Irish Turf-cutters and Contractors Association, but it's not stretching the imagination much to think they might have had a helping hand from those who don't give a damn about bogs but give a lot of damns about scuppering Mr Mitchell's candidacy.
As for the McGuinness ambush by the son of Pte Patrick Kelly, the same story, I'm afraid. Most of us carry pictures of our loved ones with us much of the time, but in our wallet or hand-bag. Pvte. Kelly's son had a large framed picture which must be awkward to carry around. So presumably he planned the time and place of his meeting with McGuinness, then picked up the framed photograph. But why now, you say, Virginia? Mr Kelly's father was killed in 1983 - that's nearly thirty years ago. Why did he never confront Mr McGuinness before now? You have a point, I think. My experience of bereavement is that the pain never goes away but is at its rawest in the first 5-10 years. So to answer your why-now question, Virginia, I think Mr Kelly was more concerned to stop Martin McGuinness making it to the Áras than he was about getting justice for his father. If the latter was his uppermost thought, he would surely have got round to confronting Sinn Féin people, including McGuinness, before this. What's more, Virginia (oh dear, I know this will shock your little heart but it must be said) there are people who don't mind using the bereavement of others for their own political purposes. It's perfectly possible that Mr Kelly and his framed photograph of his father appeared before Mr McGuinness without any help of any kind from any political party or campaign handler of a rival candidate. It's also perfectly possible - in fact you could probably risk a bet on it, Virginia - that he had plenty of help. It's called the manipulation of grief, Virginia. Stand by for more of the same.